Monday, September 22, 2014

Trying Limit Our Imaginations- Celebrate the Right to Read

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To Kill a Mockingbird. Captain Underpants. The Color Purple.  Green Eggs and Ham. Junie B. Jones. Catch-22.  Harry Potter.  The Giving Tree.  The Lord of the Rings.  All VERY different books, from different eras, with different audiences.  However, these books all have one thing glaringly in common: they are considered banned books. Reasons ranging from sexism, Marxism, racism, realistic portrayals of history, violence, sexual content, language, smoking, and bad decisions have all marred these books according to some people and those people want those books out of the public eye.  They have rallied, protested, held book burnings, and continue to petition to have these books removed from schools and libraries.  Why?  Because they are offended by the contents.

This week marks the 32 year of celebrating banned books. Banned books span from children's books to adult books; they are referred to as "challenged" books, since offended parties have to petition with the Office of Intellectual Freedom with their concerns about the book in question.  The majority of these books have had concerns raised due to their appearances in school and public libraries; however, several adult novels have consistently been called into question as well, due to their sensitive subjects.  In 1982, librarian and Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, Judith Krug, alarmed by the rising number of books that were being challenged and subsequently banished from school and libraries, created Banned Book Week.  The objective was to raise awareness about challenged books and the reasons that were given.  With the ALA's full support behind Banned Book Week throughout the decades, the week has become an almost celebration of challenged books in schools and libraries. 

So.  What has Banned Book Week done for us?  It has provided a valuable forum to discuss freedom of speech and the freedom of intellect guaranteed in the United States. Banned Book Week has given educators and librarians across the country the opportunity to teach children and adults alike about the virtues of having the freedom to read what we want and not be censored due to others' prejudices against different ideas and leanings.  We need to read banned books; not just for their content.  We need to read them in order to show people that we as Americans will not be censored.  We will not allow a small group of people to dictate what we can and cannot read, just because they do not agree with the content.  Banned Book Week is about more than just books; it is about the freedom we have as a country to educate ourselves freely and to read whatever we want without the fear of persecution. Read a banned book; celebrate the right to read.   

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